Critical Literature Review:
The Five Theories of International Relations
Lebanon Valley College
Understanding International Relations is very important in our society today. It’s important to understand how global states handle certain economic and political conflicts that arise and how the basic framework of their society works. In order to properly understand these relations it is vital they we fully comprehend the five major theoretical schools of thought that are discussed in international relations. This paper will summarize, classify, compare, and contrast both the differences and similarities of these five theories along with their outlooks on power and war with references to the security dilemma. I will also provide what I believe to be the most significant school or schools of thought and how understanding each of these concepts is important when dealing with international relations.
The five Theoretical Schools of thought are as followed:
Power and War
Each school of thought is made up its own concepts, ideas, and core values about power and war. These provide the basic framework for society and lay out who makes the decisions how the structure of international relations is to be handled. Each theory has its own assumptions on where the power is allocated and how the power is used. For example, Realists shift most of their focus in gaining the most resources and using that those resources to survive. In order to obtain power nations must accumulate material resources and build up military strength. In realism the power resides within the sovereign states .Liberals on the other hand think that democracy and community is the way to go and power is both hard and soft. Nations will strive to be capitalistic and believe in free markets among nations and that nations with common interests will tend to get along. Realism and liberalism are the two most important schools of thought and provide the common practice of international relation. Marxism, constructivism, and feminism take the ideas presented by a realist and a liberal and they critique the important cores and ideals based on how they think society foreign relations should be handled. A Marxist will say that the economy drives politics and that social class plays a huge factor in society. The wealthy are the ones who control the most power because they have the most money. In a Marxist society free markets don’t exist. A constructivist will argue that the power of ideas is what runs society. Constructivists see the world in terms of norms, identity, and habit and focus their attention on culture. Feminists believe that men have designed global structures the restrict women and are interested in creating. When we drill deeper into these 5 major schools of thought we will start seeing to see how each theory specifically breaks down international relations. Similarities will arise among schools of thought along with drastic differences.
“Realism is based on a view of the individual as primarily fearful, selfish, and power seeking (Essentials of IR, Pg. 70).”In realism these individuals make up anarchic sovereign states which act upon their national interests. These interests are defined by how much power the state has. The theory of power states that power is how the world operates and that whoever has the most power will be in charge. The best way to gain more power in a realist perspective is to obtain the most material resources, for example, weapons, cash, education, land, and population (Dolan, Lecture-Realism) These resources are used primarily to physically harm or coerce other states into doing what they want. Having these resources available makes it difficult for countries with limited resources to gain power and become a major international player in foreign interactions. One of the main concerns when talking about realism is...
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